About a year or so ago, maybe longer, my good buddy Alex gave me a camera, and in the same package, sent me some vintage expired film. Really REALLY vintage, and really REALLY expired.
Seriously, y'all. This is some old film.
This is a roll of 120 black and white Ferrania from 1955. I did a little bit of research (of course it now strikes me that it might have been helpful to do that BEFORE I started this adventure) and it's Ferrania Ultracromatica 30. What an awesome name is that? ULTRACROMATICA.
I enjoyed having this film from a strictly nostalgic standpoint - I really had no intention of using it. When the idea first came to me to try, I mentioned it offhand to others, and they all seemed to think it'd be an exercise in futility - that film this old could not possibly work.
Generally...being told something will never work is the quickest way to get me to try it.
My film adventures are generally not the most scientific of experiments. I did a lot of guesstimating because, honestly, I had ZERO expectation that this would work. The foil wrapper around the film was crumbling on the inside, and the film itself was really brittle. I know that it's been refrigerated since I've owned it, but in the 60 years before that? Who knows where it's been, really.
I shot it in my Hasselblad, metering for an ISO of 5. When you're shooting really expired film, you're supposed to knock a certain amount off the ISO for however many decades past fresh it is. This was so far expired that, according to my admittedly rusty math, I'd have been shooting it in the negative. Having no idea how one manages negative ISO film (pun intended, sort of) I just went for it at 5. I used an aperture of f4 on all the photos, because I figured I'd need all the light I could get!
I had to do even more guesstimating when it came to development. To make matters worse, my timer app glitched and I'm honestly not sure how long it was in the soup for. I used Ilfosol 3 because it's all I have on hand (and all I use) at a 1+14 dilution, for roughly 4 minutes.
Now, the hardcore developer types amongst you are probably making a list of all the things I did wrong there. I'm well aware of them already. Ilfosol 3 might not have been the best choice - I think stand development in Rodinal is what is recommended for expired film? However, I was not about to drive all over town trying to find a bottle of Rodinal on a Sunday, nor do I have the patience for stand development. From start to finish, this was a "what happens if I" experiment, so that's what I did!
Could I have had better results with another developer? Maybe. Should I have shot outside? Probably. Should I have (insert all the things I would do now if I had another roll of this film)? Sure. But, again, ZERO expectations.
So, considering I didn't think this would work at all - imagine my delight when I took the film out of the soup, and saw that it had! (By the way, that never gets old. Never. No matter how much film I've developed by now, I still feel like a goddamn wizard every. single. time.)
There is something about these little ghostly pictures that delights me in a way that no other photos I've taken in a long LONG time have. I could make a list as long as my arm of all the things that are wrong with them, but I still love them so hard.
Maybe it's because they shouldn't exist. I mean, it's probably waxing a little poetic to say that they are miraculous but - they kind of ARE, really.
This film was manufactured not long after the end of World War II. Ever since then, it's been knocking about store shelves, closets, and boxes around Europe and who KNOWS where. Why wasn't it used before now? How many different people owned it before Alex and I? Questions, questions, all the questions.
To me, this is a testament to the sheer endurance of film. In SIXTY years, are you going to be able to access images from your SDCDXYZwhatever card? I have compact discs from FIVE years ago that have gone bad already. So, no, I daresay those cards might not remain.
But film? Film will. :)